The Spirituality of Fundraising

Out of all the authors to write about fundraising, Henri Nouwen may be the least likely. Nouwen was a Catholic priest, professor, and author. He wasn't evangelical, and didn't seem to be the type to care about money. Despite this, he's written one of the most helpful books on fundraising I've encountered.

The Spirituality of Fundraising isn't a how-to book. Other books fill that role, like Getting Sent and People Raising. Nouwen's book deals with the deeper and more important issues related to fundraising: issues of the heart.

The problem with fundraising isn't that we don't know what to do. The problem goes a lot deeper. We are uncomfortable speaking about money, and we feel like we're begging. We approach finances from the perspective of need rather than vision. We're intimidated by the rich, and insecure in our identity. The biggest barrier to fundraising is within ourselves.

Nouwen wants us to see that fundraising is ministry, just as much as "giving a sermon, entering a time of prayer, visiting the sick, or feeding the hungry." He wants us to see fundraising not as a burdensome chore, but as a way to proclaim "what we believe in such a way that we offer other people an opportunity to participate with us in our vision and mission." He wants us to ask for money standing up, not bending down, because we are not begging, but rather giving "giving them the opportunity to put their resources at the disposal of the kingdom." Most of all, he wants us to approach our task out of our identity in Christ, so that we are free to love others regardless of how they respond.

"From beginning to end, fundraising as ministry is grounded in prayer and undertaken in gratitude," Nouwen writes. "Prayer is the radical starting point of fundraising because in prayer we slowly experience a reorientation of all our thoughts and feelings about ourselves and others."

Near the end of this small book, Nouwen states the problem he's trying to address:

How do we become people whose security base is God and God alone? How can we stand confidently with rich and poor alike on the common ground of God’s love? How can we ask for money without pleading, and call people to a new communion without coercing? How can we express not only in our way of speaking but also in our way of being with others the joy, vitality, and promise of our mission and vision? In short, how do we move from perceiving fundraising as an unpleasant but unavoidable activity to recognizing fundraising as a life-giving, hope-filled expression of ministry?

Nouwen succeeds in answering these questions. He's the last person I would have expected to help me with fundraising, but his book is exactly what I needed. If you are raising funds for ministry, read the practical books, but read this book first.

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Hard Soil?

It was only a week ago that I preached a sermon that talked about people who are resistant to the gospel. I posed what I thought was a good series of questions:

How do we share the gospel in a community in which many seem to be resistant? How can we share the gospel effectively, when it sometimes feels like we’re about as welcome as the furnace telemarketer? How can we — ordinary people like us — live on mission?

It's not the first time that I've talked about people being resistant to the gospel. I've used other terms as well, like hard soil. People usually know what I mean, and I don't get many arguments about the premise that we are in a gospel-resistant culture.

At least, not until last week.

Two days after I preached this message, Gord Fleming, National Director of C2C, spoke to a group of church planters in Toronto. He spoke about the explosion of new churches in Québec, which is known to be much more resistant to the gospel than Toronto. "We believe the lie that it's hard soil," he said. "The enemy wants to defeat us." When God gives us an assignment, Satan will do everything the can to throw us off, and one of his tactics is to get us to believe that people aren't ready for the gospel. We just need to love Jesus and be obedient to the Spirit, he said, and not defeat ourselves before we begin.

Then, last Sunday, I attended Fellowship Pickering, a church plant in a suburb of Toronto. Matt Hess spoke about creating a culture of invitation. He challenged us to refuse to worry about hard soil. God is at work, he said, and we just need to follow him and trust him to work with expectation.

We shouldn't deny reality. We can look around and make tentative conclusions about our communities. At the same time, Fleming and Hess are right. Our enemy would like us to see the obstacles more than we see God's power. Let's stop coming up with reasons why God can't work, and let's pray and obey with expectancy. God happens to specialize in what we tend to identify as hard soil.

Saturday Links

Links for your weekend reading:

The Worst Church Plant Strategy of All Time!

This way of discipleship will probably never get the credit it deserves or the press it needs.

Why Knowing Your Flock Is Critical to Meaningful Preaching

The ministry of preaching cannot be divorced from the ministry of soul care; in fact, preaching is an extension of soul care. There are a host of reasons why it’s important for pastors who want to preach meaningfully to know their flocks as well as they can, but here are three of the most important.

God Didn’t Call You To Be a Super-Pastor

What might the church look like if we pushed back, in a truly counter-cultural way, against the rampant independence and consumerism and killed the “Super-Pastor” by equipping the saints, doing ministry together, and the pastor fading into the background?

8 Reasons Some Pastors Aren’t Ready to Lead through Revitalization

I’m not convinced every pastor is ready to lead through a revitalization effort. Here’s why.

Thoughts on Note-Taking During Sermons

I want them to see preaching in the worship service not as a lecture or as primarily an educational transmission to their minds, but as prophetic proclamation and as primarily aimed at their hearts.

The Two People Every Organization Needs

Every organization, whether it’s a business or a non-profit, needs at least two types of leaders to find sustainability.


Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

Twenty Lessons in Church Planting

We celebrated our second anniversary as a church plant this past weekend. I've spent two decades as pastor of established churches, and only a few years (including pre-launch work) as a church planter. Here are twenty lessons I've learned about church planting so far.

  1. Church planting is much harder than you'd expect, even if you thought it would be hard. Expect disappointments and spiritual warfare.
  2. Church planting is much more rewarding than you'd expect. It's not the point of church planting, but it's a side benefit. You will probably experience more joy in church planting than in any other ministry you've experienced.
  3. Church planting is a team sport. Don't ever try it alone. Don't ever try it without your spouse's full support.
  4. Having a set of core convictions is essential in planting a church. Everyone will tell you what to do. It's important to listen and learn, but it's also important to know what God has called you to do.
  5. Having a plan is important when planting a church, but don't expect the plan to survive its first contact with reality.
  6. People you think will support you often won't. People you think will support you often will.
  7. However long you think it will take you, double it. Just to be safe, triple it. Don't get into church planting if you don't know how to be patient.
  8. You will see a steady stream of people who wander from church to church. Don't expect them to stay long. Don't build your ministry around them.
  9. You will be tempted to settle for transfer growth. Keep your eyes on the harvest.
  10. Planting a church is different than pastoring a church. Know the difference, and make sure you're actually planting.
  11. If you can't fundraise, you probably can't plant.
  12. Deal with your baggage. Don't plant a church in protest. Plant a church for positive reasons, not negative ones.
  13. Never discount the importance of year zero. Set the foundation well rather than rushing to a premature launch.
  14. Attend conferences sparingly. They're helpful, but always weigh the benefits.
  15. Get to know other planters. Pray for them, learn from them, rejoice when they succeed, and share their burdens when they struggle.
  16. Expect to be busy. Church planting will demand more of your time than other forms of ministry.
  17. Build structure. Unless you structure your time, you'll be pulled in a million directions. Don't say yes to every invitation you receive.
  18. Stop counting. Minister to the people who are there rather than obsessing over the people who aren't.
  19. Don't expect glory. Church planting is hard, tough work. But you're privileged to be able to do it.
  20. Keep coming back to the gospel. Don't get your identity from how well the church plant is doing. Get your identity from the gospel. Build a gospel culture, beginning with you.
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Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

Discouragement and Preaching

I was in a room alone with Haddon Robinson, author of Biblical Preaching, and another examiner. He and a colleague had read through my Doctor of Ministry thesis. Haddon is kind, but he's not afraid to tell it like it is. I was concerned by what he'd find in my thesis that just didn't measure up.


I don't remember a lot of his comments from that day, but I remember one. My thesis was on God-centered preaching, which, I argued, is far better than  the human-centered preaching that is so easy to do. At one point I argued that God-centered preaching is much less discouraging. "One of the reasons for discouragement in preaching may be that an anthropocentric [human-centered] approach is unsatisfying, whereas a theocentric [God-centered] approach brings us to the only source of eternal satisfaction and joy," I wrote.

"I don't agree with that," Haddon said. He explained that discouragement is part of ministry, and that no kind of preaching would help a preacher avoid it.

I'm grateful for Haddon's correction. I don't get discouraged often, but when I do I remind myself that it's part of ministry.

I changed the paragraph to one that met with Haddon's approval:

Discouragement is part of the assignment of preaching, but a theocentric approach reminds us that our sufficiency is not found in ourselves. God, not the preacher, is the only source of eternal satisfaction and joy.